This is an impressive account of the childhood of the author, Birendra Raj Giri, from
He managed to combine school with a heavy workload at home. Birendra’s description of his experiences brilliantly shows the awkward position of many children whose views are ignored by adults who claim to act in the best interest of children.
“While I loved attending school, teachers would be my worst nightmare because my household work often would not allow me to complete the homework and I had to pay the penalty for that. The common form of punishment at the school was beating from palm to shoulder with a long skinny stick and asking students to straighten their arms or slapping on their backs. The stick would have such an impact that not only the pain but also the ‘blue stripes’ on their hands or backs would last for days and a couple of times, I received cuts on my palm and arm because the teacher was using a rough stick.
There were numerous other forms of beating, including slapping students’ cheeks, pulling ears/hair, hitting on the head with books, putting a pen between two fingers and squeezing them, etc.
However, I felt the beatings were completely unfair because the teachers were not prepared to listen to my side of the story: although I would arrive at school bare-footed, wearing torn clothes and completely exhausted by working and walking, the teachers would blame me for being indolent; if I told them the truth, they would then accuse me of lying, in spite of the fact most of the teachers were aware of my family circumstances.
Telling my parents was not useful because they would say, “look son, teachers are good people, they want you to be good too; that’s why sometimes they punish you to teach you good discipline.” In
In the light of such experiences, if those children who only engage in harsh work are called ‘child labourers’, and those who do acceptable jobs are called ‘child workers’, while those who neither work nor go to school are called ‘nowhere’ children, then children like myself should indeed be called ‘double troubled’ children, because they are caught up between heavy work and study, not to mention the severe punishments at school. My childhood experiences therefore make me believe that rural children of
Based on his own experiences Birendra stresses the need to take children’s views into account in research and discourse on child work:
“[This does, however,] require that we understand children’s living and working conditions and how they make sense of the environment that they (are forced to) work in and only carefully devised research is likely to produce useful results regarding the different sectors in which children are found working.” (p.18)
Childhoods Today is a new e-journal published, bi-annually in the first instance, by the Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth at the University of Sheffield,
The aim of the journal is to publish high quality empirical and theoretical work by up-and-coming researchers in the field of childhood studies and to provide a reference for others working in this and related fields.
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